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Thursday, 16 October 2003
Page: 21643

Mr SECKER (2:19 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry representing the Minister for Trade. Would the minister advise the House of the government's response to the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations?

Mr TRUSS (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) —I thank the honourable member for his question, because he represents an area where an increase in agricultural trade would be of enormous benefit to the economy of the region. Since the setback at Doha, Australia has been active in endeavouring to re-engage the nations who have a particular interest in developing a freer and fairer trading regime and get this multilateral process back on track. The multilateral trade negotiations remain the government's No. 1 trade priority—

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Rankin!

Mr TRUSS —and we are certainly redoubling our efforts to get WTO members back to the negotiating table to ensure that the Doha objectives can indeed be achieved. As the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources said a few moments ago, the potential for bilateral trade agreements is significant, offering real benefits to Australia. But if we can achieve a widespread multilateral agreement—

The SPEAKER —The member for Rankin defies the chair!

Mr TRUSS —then clearly other benefits will also flow in very significant quantities back to our country. The Minister for Trade is in Bangkok at present and he is calling together key WTO members, in the company of WTO Director-General Dr Supachai, to capture the work that has been done in Cancun. Some progress was made in the agricultural negotiations at Cancun, but unfortunately, because the meeting broke up before it got to the discussions on agriculture, a lot of that could not be put into text and into agreement.

Australia is determined to ensure that there is no backtracking, that there is no loss of the progress that was made at Cancun. The meeting that Minister Vaile is currently convening in Bangkok will, hopefully, build on the negotiations that occurred at Cancun and enable the Doha Round to make another step forward. There will be enormous benefits to Australian agriculture in electorates like Barker if we are able to get a fairer and freer trading regime. The Cairns Group proposals, for instance, if accepted would increase average farm cash incomes on broadacre and dairy farms in Australia by between $11,000 and $15,000 a year. So it is very well worthwhile doing and the efforts of the trade minister are to be commended in getting the Doha Round back on track and making sure that progress continues to be made.